Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Women Need Health Care Reform, Stat!

By Willie J. Parker, MD, MPH

Despite the shouting and name-calling at the town hall meetings, I remain hopeful about health care reform. I have no other choice. As an obstetrician-gynecologist, I spent years learning how to keep women healthy. Too often, I find myself telling patients with easily treatable conditions that I can’t help them -- they don’t have the money to get well. Denying women care and watching them suffer rips me apart. That’s why I’ve become an ardent advocate for health care reform.

I am not talking about withholding the latest, cutting-edge, exorbitantly priced medications or treatments. No -- I’ve had patients whose health insurance doesn’t cover such basic health needs as Pap smears and birth control prescriptions. And forget about having a baby -- many insurance policies don’t cover prenatal care or labor and delivery, or they treat pregnancy as a pre-existing condition.

As a country, we need to give women a better chance at staying healthy. Through health care reform, Washington could guarantee affordable reproductive health care to every woman and every girl in the nation, no matter who is insuring her.

Recently I had a patient, Celia, who made too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Her employer didn’t offer insurance. She had fibroids, a common condition of the uterus. But because Celia couldn’t afford to see a doctor, her fibroids grew unchecked to the point of interfering with her monthly cycles. She bled so heavily that she became severely anemic. I had to send her to the ER where she was hospitalized to receive a blood transfusion.

Celia’s hemorrhaging was an unnecessary risk to her health. Moreover, the hospital paid for her trip to the ER, the kind of expenditure that makes health care more expensive for everyone. If she had health coverage, her fibroids could have been managed by a solution as simple as birth control pills, sparing the toll her illness took on her family, her coworkers, and everyone else who depends on her.

Click here to read the full Op-ed